The Father of Sinners

Updated: Jul 15, 2021

Part One: The Father of Man

Part Three: The Father of Slaves


Often there is a temptation to look back at the fall as only a sign of God's anger towards us without seeing the display of his love and grace. As we look at the fall, what we should see is that God acts not as an angry deity but a divine father who loves his children. In Genesis 3, Moses recounts for us what led to the downfall of humanity. In the story of the temptation and fall of Adam and Eve, we see what Romans 1:25 calls, "the exchanging of truth for a lie". One of the key aspects of the work of Satan was to call into question the love of God as a Father. This is one of the vicious attacks of Satan that he always throws towards humanity.

Satan is constantly at work to turn away God's children from enjoying him forever. And yet, it is this work that enables us to see the amazing grace and love of God. As William Gurnall puts it so well,

"God makes Satan's temptations the courier of his love to the saints. The devil thought he had the game in his own hands when he got Adam to eat the forbidden fruit. He supposed he now had man in the same predicament as himself. But did he catch God by surprise? Of course not!"[1]

When Adam and Eve fell, what did God do? He pursued them! God could have wiped Adam and Eve off from the face of the planet, but he pursued them with his fatherly care. He does not wait for Adam and Eve to come to him.

It reminds me of the painting in the Sistine Chapel. Adam is lazily half-heartedly putting out a finger towards God, and God is extending massively to Adam. Regardless of your view on the second commandment, that picture is just a fraction of the reality of what God did. Adam and Eve ran and hid. Those beautiful image bearers of God, created for a perfect relationship with him, have become pitiful, scared creatures fleeing from the very presence of their father.

Is it not a sad picture, Adam and Eve with some pathetic leaves hiding in pathetic bushes hoping that their father would not find them? It reminds me of the time I did a prank call as a child. The person I called got very upset and told me they would call the police. I ran and hid under a set of drawers for what felt like hours. I was far too scared to come to my parents and ask for help. Yet the Father does not leave them hiding in a bush.

He knew what had happened. The whole of earth was groaning over the weight of their rebellion. We do not know how long Adam and Eve hid, but this we know,

God's gracious pursuing was greater than their pathetic hiding. He could have smote them both on the spot. But he came down from Heaven and found them, the first revelation of the face of grace. Mercy and love put on display.

Yet notice that the Father does not just pursue, but he probes; he questions them. God came and found the man and called out, "Where are you?" (Gen 3:9) Of course, God knew where they were. Yet, is this not just what a loving parent does? When your child is hiding at bed time, hiding in a closet do you not call out, "Where are you Sarah? Where are you?" Why do you do it? Because you are graciously offering your child a chance to get up and walk out and say, "Here I am, I love you, I have sinned."

Is it not a beautiful picture of the love of God that he does not step in with a rod instantly? God steps in and gently probes. "Where are you Adam? Who said you were naked? Did you eat of the tree?" He is giving Adam and Eve the opportunity to repent. This loving parents do. When a child has eaten of the chocolate cake and it is all over their face. You not ask, "Who ate the cake?" Even when you know! Because you want them to confess their failure so you can welcome them with grace and love.

So it is with Adam and Eve, the fruit is all over their face and God graciously gave Adam and Eve a chance to confess and run back to their father. And yet, they refused.

Notice also the father's love in his punishment of Adam and Eve. Hebrews 12:6-8 tells us, "For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives. It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons." How is punishment a fingerprint of a loving father? The discipline of God is the evidence that Adam and Eve were his children. For we do not punish strangers, but our beloved children. So it was for Adam and Eve. God's love could not ignore the rebellion of his children. So he removed them from the garden.

How is their removal from the garden an expression of the love of God? If they were to eat from the tree of life, they would live forever. What would have happened if he let them eat from it? Sin means they can have no part with God. If they had eaten of the tree of life, they would have lived forever without God. God is the ultimate joy and good in the universe, there is no happiness outside of him. If they eat from the tree and live forever, they live forever in their sin, their brokenness, and with no relationship with God.

The only way we could be restored to the father fully was for him to deny us a lesser good, so that we might have a greater good.

Yet notice he does not destroy the tree. He guards it, safe keeping it for a time when it will be freely taken again. As Revelation reminds us, "He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers I will grant to eat of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God." (2:7) "Through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations." (22:2) "Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they may have the right to the tree of life and that they may enter the city by the gates." (22:14)

The question that is raised by all of this love, mercy, and grace is,

"How can God be a just punisher of sinners and also be this gracious, loving, and merciful?"

The key is in the final fingerprint. In the curse on the serpent, the Father gives a promise to Adam and Eve that one day a seed of the woman will crush the serpent forever. The only way that the Father could do it, as Hebrews 2:14 tells us, "Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil".

It is as though God having made the promise looks into the horizon of his sovereign plan and says, "Based on the cross work of Christ I will show grace, mercy, and love to you. It is not you Adam, but it is me, I love you and I am sending you a saviour." He called Adam and Eve to put their faith in that promise and so have full assurance of their father's love in it.

How can we have assurance that God the fathers loves us? With all of our brokenness, it can be a real challenge for us to know the love of the Father.

We can be assured because the father's promise shows us his love, grace, and mercy. His provision exhibits it, his punishment reveals it, his probing declares it, and his pursuing demonstrates it.

Do you know this love? Have you felt this love? In Genesis 3, we see the most despicable, rebellious moment of humanity. The utter flagrant sin of perfect individuals and here we stare deeply into the father's love. Because the light of God's love shines brightest where the darkness of sin is dug in deepest. God's love, grace, and mercy shine true.


This article was contributed by Logan Hagoort.

Pastor at Covenant Presbyterian Church.

[1] William Gurnall, ‘The Christian in Complete Armour’, Vol 1., P. 120.

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